Mippy came and sat back down. Her eyes scanned the room as if she was looking at it for the very first time.
She smiled and said “after we got married, we bought this little house. I was going to make curtains for the windows, have a garden outside and I wanted a white picket fence all the way around the yard. Jus was going to build a swing set for all the children we were going to have.”
She was silent for a minute as she looked at the rose in the little glass vase. I asked “what happened, Mippy?”
“There was a war going on,” she said. “Young men were being called to arms, whether they wanted to go or not. They had what they called a draft lottery back then and when your number was called, you had to go.”
She looked out the window and said, “I was hoping that his number wouldn’t be picked. I knew that all numbers would eventually be picked but I was hoping his would be far away or that maybe the war would be over when it was picked.”
I asked what she meant by a draft lottery. She said “all the days of the year were put into blue plastic capsules and then placed in a deep glass jar. One by one, the numbers were pulled out.”
She said “I remember sitting at his mama and daddy’s house. The numbers being picked were on television. We watched as they picked those numbers out of that jar. #38 was pulled. That meant that all the young men born on March 31st would be going”
She looked at he rose and said “Jus was born on March 31st.”
I said, “are you talking about the Vietnam War?”
Mippy said, “yes child. The Vietnam War. A horrible, wretched, senseless war.”
I had heard about that war but it happened way before my time and it had faded into the background as the years went by. My only experience with war was when the “war on terrorism” came to the forefront and even then, I was very young and didn’t really understand about war and death and the cost of freedom. People talked about that war but no one ever seemed to want to talk about Vietnam. I got the impression that there was some sort of stigma attached to it.
Mippy said “after his number was called, we only had one month until he had to go. I spent most of that time crying at night after he had gone to sleep. I prayed and promised and begged and pleaded. I would have almost sold my soul to the devil, if it meant that Jus would return safely to me.”
“I remember the day he left” she said. “My eyes were almost swollen shut from crying. I thought my heart would break right there at the train station but Jus asked me to be strong. I took comfort trying to picture him in his uniform. I remember thinking that he was going to look so handsome and even though I didn’t want him to go, I was proud that he was serving our country.”
“Before he got on the train,” she said, “he handed me this rose and promised that he would be back. He winked at me and said “and I’d better see that rose sitting on the kitchen table.”
I looked at her and said “Mippy. That can’t be true. That rose would have to be at least fifty years old.”
She ignored me as if I hadn’t said anything. She said “he told me that he wanted me to think of him every time I looked at the rose and know that he would be thinking of me.”
Suddenly, she had a look on her face that I had never seen. It was anger and rage and repulsion. She said, “what those boys went through there, ‘in country’, as they called it, and what they went through when they came back, well, at least the ones who made it back. I know this. None of those young men who made it back, were ever the same again. You can’t look at something as horrible as people getting blown up and shot to death and not feel changed.”
Her focus abruptly returned to the rose in the small glass vase. She smiled once again as she looked at it.
“I wrote to him every single day,” she said, “and I wrote the letters right here at my kitchen table, looking at my rose.”
To be continued____________________